(All Africa) – Just a day after launching a joint offensive against the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigerian territory, Niger and Chadian forces recaptured the towns of Damasak and Malam Fatouri in north east Nigeria that were in the hands of Boko Haram, Reuters reported. The terrorist group had held the town of Damasak since November 2014 when it intensified attacks in the area.
“We have kicked the enemy out of these areas and they are now under our control,” Reuters quoted a Niger military officer as saying. Local residents testified of having seen a convoy of more than 200 vehicles heading from Niger into Nigeria, while air strikes have also been reported. The advancing troops reportedly seized large quantities of arms and ammunition as well as vehicles and were undertaking a clean-up operation in the area, Reuters cited a Niger military source as having said. “The troops have taken dozens of Boko Haram elements prisoner,” the source is quoted as saying. Damasak, the town furthest into Nigeria, is 10 km south of the Niger border, where Nigerien and Chadian troops had been massing in recent weeks before the offensive.
In the offensive, about 300 Boko Haram militants were killed, a second Niger military source said. There was no official confirmation of the toll and it was not possible to verify the figure. A Chadian officer, who requested for anonymity, reportedly said about 10 Chadian soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in fighting for the towns. Two sources with Niger’s military also reportedly told Reuters that five of its soldiers were killed in the clashes. A medical source in Diffa, the capital of the Niger region which borders Boko Haram’s heartland in northeastern Nigeria, said 30 wounded soldiers had been admitted to the town’s hospital.